Creating meaningful moments: a teenager’s perspective on dementia

Lucas has been affected by dementia throughout his life, having multiple family members who lived with the condition. Dementia doesn't mean the end of a family relationship, says 18-year-old Lucas, who urges us to treasure moments with those we love.

'Talking circuits' by Lucas Munoz-Greiz

Alzheimer’s is like the uninvited uncle who shows up at every family event, comes in for a few hours, and makes a mess. He inserts himself between gossiping conversations and fills the air around him with unbridled shame for no other reason than because he can. 

I was aware of Alzheimer’s in the family – it was the subject of different stories by distant family members in other countries.

It was a label rather than an explanation.

The great-grandfather, whose routine and faces all became jumbled up but whose intelligence never left him.

The distant uncle whose handwriting became lines, yet whose musical talents remained, with his voice, as he sang the best songs about the sea and love.  

Some people might view dementia as the final blow, as a sign of age and defeat. But when are we going to realise that the one thing that humans do best (apart from spending money) is adapting?

A diagnosis doesn’t mean an end of memories and relationships, but rather a change, a shift from having to rely on the past and a chance to relive a life well spent.

Memories of visiting my grandmother 

When I was younger, I would visit my grandmother in an old little Spanish town 40 minutes from the city. We would spend all evening walking and talking about the trees, cows and family dreams. We talked about my great-grandparents with Alzheimer's. And we would only go home when it was night.

The smell of freshly watered grass would act as a roadmap back to the house with green windows and a fig tree.

Even now, more than 10 years later, though I have absolutely no clue what we actually talked about, I know that my grandma will remember those walks with her grandson.

Lucas' grandma, sat on a swing below a tree

Lucas' grandma, Cristina, during one of his visits to see her in Spain

I know that those walks in that broken cement are more than just old days but something meaningful she did with her family. And that’s precisely what we should be doing, not just with those who have Alzheimer’s, but with all our elderly.

There is still so much life.

Our existence does not depend on what we can or can’t remember, but rather on our ability to say yes. To follow through and build new relationships even with those who have forgotten the old ones.  

Memories are not these precious yet limited sights that once they happen become slippery and loose. They are smells, feelings and tastes.

They are emotions made real by our very interaction with the world – from symbols to pictures we can re-live these. That is why documenting the important moments and being present to those you love is so important.

Because though we can write millions of sonnets, buy billions of flowers, the one thing we can never get back is time.  

So that’s why we need to spend it, why we need to build those memories and take care of those relationships that are so vital. Even just small and short calls that act as reminders can go a long way. Not as good as a walk and talk but still, you get the point. 

Even though a person might not specifically remember the entirety of themselves, they will know that you are there, that they matter to you, and that their existence is needed.

The brain is such a mystery, do not let your chance to enjoy it go by, along with time.  

Would you like to share your story?

Share a story or poem, like Lucas, and tell us about your experiences with dementia at [email protected]

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